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March App of the Month: Alberta Interactive Minerals Map

Learn about March’s App of the Month, the Alberta Interactive Minerals Map, in an interview with the app’s lead developer, Rastislav Elgr, a GIS Specialist with the Alberta Geological Survey.

The next stop on our 12-month, cross-Canada tour of innovative apps built on the ArcGIS platform is Alberta. This month we’re featuring the Alberta Interactive Minerals Map—a joint project between the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) and Alberta Energy to provide quick, easy access to information related to mineral resources in the province.

The Alberta Interactive Minerals Map contains over 20 datasets, including mineral resource estimates, bedrock geology, land use areas and protected areas.

Learn why the app was developed and the secret behind keeping the vast amount of data it consumes up-to-date in this interview with the app’s lead developer, Rastislav Elgr, a GIS Specialist with AGS.

 AB: What needs or challenges did the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) want to address that led to the development of the Alberta Interactive Minerals Map?
RE: We created the app to provide Albertans with information about mineral resources and resource estimates collected over the last 100 years for Alberta within a modern and interactive environment.

AB: Can you provide an example of why someone would use the app?
RE: It allows domestic and international mining companies to browse, query and download data about various resources in Alberta. As well, land owners can get information about resources and geology within Alberta.

AB: Why did you choose Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS to develop the app?
RE: Web AppBuilder is an excellent tool with which you can build a Web mapping application in a relatively short time by using available themes and ready-to-use widgets. It doesn’t require any programming skills and is evolving and getting better with each new release.

AB: Was it more efficient to integrate data from the AGS Open Data Catalogue because it was created using ArcGIS Open Data?
RE: Both the AGS Open Data Site and Web mapping application are pointing to the same source and use ArcGIS Online as a storage and engine to run everything.

Once users have located the data they’d like to download, they’re directed to the AGS Open Data Catalogue where they can quickly access information as a spreadsheet, KML or shapefile.

AB: Is there any other data being integrated into the app?
RE: Certainly! The Alberta Interactive Minerals Map (AIMM) is a live product. Since its launch last summer, we have added several new layers such as Resource Estimate, Lithium, Glacial Landforms, Surficial Sand and Gravel Deposits, Bedrock Topography and Sediment Thickness.

AB: What feedback have you received from people so far about the app?
RE: People are happy and excited to have access to this kind of data in an interactive environment. The positive responses we’ve received to provide data and information using this app has encouraged our organization to assess what other data could be disseminated using ArcGIS Online. The AGS is currently working on two more Web applications, which will be released shortly.

AB: Is there a particular feature about the app that has been particularly well received?
I would say the interactive aspect of the app is what makes this product unique. Compared to our static paper maps or data distributed in zip archives, this Web app gives you way more options to play with the data, query it, browse it prior to download and access it from pretty much any Internet-enabled device. Moreover, you don’t have to be a GIS expert or have GIS software installed on your computer to use it.

AB: How many unique views has it received? Did this meet or exceed your expectations?
RE: As of mid-February 2016, we have close to 11,000 hits with 50 - 70 views on average during weekdays, less on weekends. I’m personally happy with these numbers, and I believe that, with more publicity, time and upgrades, we’ll eventually bring more traffic to our Web app.

AB: Have other departments or organizations inquired about how you developed the app?
RE: I’ve been asked to demonstrate the functionality and possibilities of ArcGIS Online to my colleagues and managers at AGS, as well as to people at the Government of Alberta. There’s a trend to develop more applications within different teams at AGS, and some of my colleagues and managers are asking me how we can benefit more from using ArcGIS Online to disseminate our data.

AB: Has the app inspired you or any of your colleagues to create other apps or Web maps?
RE: Yes, our next Web applications will be “Sand and Gravel Deposits” and “Estimated Hydrocarbon Resources”. We also plan to develop a Web application that will allow us to disseminate our three-dimensional (3D) subsurface geology models, as well as start hanging our data in 3D space.

AB: Have you made any enhancements to the app since its launch? Do you have any future plans to enhance it?
RE: We plan to include a few more layers, expand the list of available queries for users and enhance our Web applications to take advantage of some new features that were made available in the last ArcGIS Online upgrade. We’re also uploading metadata for all of our datasets. Finally, we’re also considering how best to enrich some of our datasets by including multimedia content like photos, videos, direct links to PDF reports and animated GIFs.

 This interview has been condensed and edited.